Teach Me How to Startup

Since There Are Incubators Everywhere Else, Why Not Put One in a California Prison?

Tech penitentiary.
San Quentin. (Photo: Wikipedia)

San Quentin. (Photo: Wikipedia)

So the tech world likes incubators. Indeed, even as new players enter the field, there are signs that the incubator model is bursting at the seams. Y Combinator downsized to less than 50 companies in its most recent class, from 84 last summer. When 500 Startups decided to establish a base in New York, it opted for a coworking space instead of an incubator. TechStars keeps growing, but its most recently announced additions have been abroad or in more narrowly-defined niches.

Perhaps the surest sign of the incubator model’s ubiquity comes from California’s San Quentin State Prison, which just graduated its first class from its so-called Last Mile program, which gathers inmates twice a week to discuss startups (they also answer Quora questions:

The latest batch of startup ideas included a fitness app that would motivate drug addicts to exercise, a cardiovascular health organization, a social network for sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder, a food waste recycling program, and an e-commerce site for artists in prison.

To be fair, Last Mile founder Chris Redlitz told Reuters he’s not looking for his next investment as much as he’s hoping to teach inmates about entrepreneurship and bridge the gap between Silicon Valley elites and the hoi polloi. To the former, we’d applaud Mr. Redlitz; on the latter… good luck with that.

Follow Patrick Clark on Twitter or via RSS. pclark@observer.com